Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Odd Lang Syne: New Year's Eve With The Flaming Lips
Here's the Oklahoman's story.
From the Local Boys Make Good Dept:
The Flaming Lips played a triumphant show New Year's Eve in their hometown, Oklahoma City, and Cami and I saw the whole thing.
Was there a greater spectacle in the entire nation that evening? It's doubtful.
Since forming around 1983, Wayne Coyne and his bandmates have plugged away far longer than anyone could have expected. In fact, the Lips have charted a strange course to stardom: instead of peaking early, then burning out, the Lips didn't hit their stride until Coyne's hair turned gray. The Lips, lead by a 46-year old man-child, have completely connected with a brand new audience, and are creating work of depth, maturity and naive wonderment that's converted new, young fans in a way bands like U2, R.E.M, and The Cure can only envy. Oh, and by the way, they've won 3 Grammys.
The Lips in 2007 bear just a passing resemblance to the band I used to watch in the early 90's. That band was a noisy, thundering 4 piece with a fondness for trippy soundscapes and obtuse lyrics. Over the years, their songs have simplified into sing-along anthems about love and death and transcendence, and their stage shows have turned into an H.R. Pufnstuf styled orgy of plushies, oversized props, and copious amounts of pure red blood. And somehow Wayne Coyne has become Oklahoma City's own Willy Wonka, gleefully leading the converted into a promised land of things wonderous.
I won't review the entire show, but I must talk about the first 15 minutes: the lights dim, the crowd whoops and hollars, and then a procession of identically dressed Santa Clauses and Elves enter the stage. A large, flashing UFO structure lowers onto the stage, while a man dressed as Captain America props up a simple aluminum ladder. Drummer Kliph Scurlock descends, followed Bassist Michael Ivins (dressed as a skeleton), and finally, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd. Simultaneously, atop the UFO, a large plastic bubble is inflating. It contains Wayne Coyne, nattily-dressed in a suit. The crowd goes absolutely crazy as the plastic bubble fills to capacity, and Coyne rolls out of the UFO, directly into the audience. As the band plays a Wagnerian style vamp, Coyne floats among the crowd in his bubble to the absolute delight of the audience. It's a stunt I first saw in 2004 at Coachella, and it's clearly become Wayne's trademark entry.
After retaking the stage, Coyne and the band break into "Race For The Prize," probably their finest song. The lyrics, about rival epidemiologists trying to cure a dread disease, are poignant, sensitive, and, well, unusual in our current climate of lyrics about big booties and the way they shake.
Wayne then pleads with the audience to sing along to their next song ("Don't worry, the words will be on the screen"), Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." We all sing along, it's magical, it's wonderful, and I've just witnessed a glorious 15 minutes of rock and roll, and all is well.
I've seen a lot of world-class acts on a huge stage, but I've never seen a performer connect with his audience quite like Wayne Coyne. Whether you're in the front row, or section Z-99, Wayne works incredibly hard to make you feel like you're an essential part of his grand-scale art happening, and you hope the show will never end. He feels like your charismatic best friend, but as he re-enters his UFO to fly off to his next show (perhaps in Madrid?), you realize he belongs to the world now.